Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Notes For Sunday Message; Third Sunday in Lent; Jesus Cleansing the Temple

This Sunday we will continue our journey to the foot of the Cross as we look at Jesus Clearing the Temple.

This weeks’ Readings are Isaiah 56:6-7; 1 Cor 1:26-29; Luke 19:45-48 ( also Isaiah 64:7-8)

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010 // CEB

Today is the Third Sunday of Lent, and we will continue looking at the events that took place during the last week of Jesus’ life.

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Last week we looked at the events of the Sunday that preceded the Holy Week; it was the day when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. That day is also known as the Palm Sunday.

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Today we will look at the events of Monday, when Jesus came to the Temple and created a major disturbance by overturning the money changer’s tables and letting the sacrificial animals to go free.

The setting for the events we heard about in today’s Gospel reading is the Festival of Passover. For an average family living in 1st Century Palestine, the preparations for Passover would include travel, visiting relatives, making gifts, preparing special holiday meals, observing rituals and making religious sacrifices at the Temple.

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Religious practices of the day prescribed that the pilgrims offer a sacrifice at the Temple (a dove, a sheep or a goat, or a cow). Because most pilgrims had to travel long distances, it was not practical or feasible for them to bring the sacrifice with them. That is why there were merchants in the outer areas of the Temple who sold sacrificial animals to the pilgrims.

Pilgrims also had to pay a Temple tithe. Greek and Roman coins had pictures of emperors and deities on them and for that reason could not be used because using these coins would be considered idolatrous; Jews considered Roman emperors and Greek deities to be idols. Using them contradicted one of the commandments – “you shall not make for yourself a graven image.”

Offering a sacrifice and paying tithes were standard parts of religious worship. Even by today’s standards, logistics would be mind-boggling. In first century Palestine, in the era before computers, railroads and eighteen wheelers to transport stuff, it took a long time to make sure that Jerusalem was ready for the pilgrims and for the festivities. Passover event planners would have been at it for weeks to have everything ready; making sure that there were enough animals, enough Temple coins without graven images, the Temple was cleaned and ready to receive pilgrims, there was enough food and wine, that supplies and lodging was available in the city and suburbs, special foods for the Passover feasts were stocked and I don’t even want to think about what they did in the era before Porta-Potties were invented.

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It is into that environment that Jesus came, drove the animals out and overturned the tables of the moneychangers. We just heard that the money changers and animal merchants served an important purpose in organizing the festivities. Why was Jesus angry?

By the way, here is something to think about: today any candidate for ministry would be disqualified immediately if he or she exhibited even a hint of such behavior.

But back to the question: why was Jesus so upset? The simplistic answer is because animal merchants overcharged for the animals and because money changers’ fees were too high. It is possible, but I do not quite agree with it because rules of supply and demand would apply in First Century Palestine just like they apply today. Nobody could charge more than what the market would bear.

So why was Jesus angry?

{Razmishlizmi – Still Thinking About It}

Besides: Jesus was notorious for hanging out with sinners. Matthew was a tax collector and from external sources we know that tax collectors extorted money from ordinary citizens. On His way to Jerusalem Jesus stopped at Zacchaeus’ house (another tax collector and self-confessed extortionist). Jesus did not go after Matthew or Zacchaeus with a whip, and both of them were changed. Why would he go after money changers and animal merchants if they extorted money just like Matthew and Zacchaeus did?
So why was Jesus angry?
Jesus also had a reputation of not tolerating hypocrisy. Truth is, hypocrisy is a difficult concept. Nobody starts out by saying, “I think that starting today I will intentionally become a hypocrite.” It takes time for our good intentions to turn into something perverted. That process is usually so subtle and so slow that more often than not, we are not even aware of what is happening; of our own hypocrisy, of our own becoming like a “whitewashed tomb” (Matt 23:27) or becoming like “wolfs in sheep’s clothing” (Matt 7:15).

{// Razmishlizmi}

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Today I want to suggest that Jesus was angry with the spiritual clutter that he found in the Temple. I am not talking about the physical clutter of animal selling and money-exchanging booths and crowds meddling to and fro; I am talking about spiritual clutter that masks hypocrisy.

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I am talking about emotional and spiritual clutter. Anything can be “clutter” when it keeps us absorbed in ourselves and unaware of what God is offering us. I am talking about such abstract concepts as success, knowledge, beauty, pleasure, propriety and tradition. All that can become “clutter” in our lives when we put our energies into acquiring and preserving these things without allowing God to bring renewal and regeneration into our lives. I want to make it clear that I am not advocating getting rid of success, knowledge, beauty, pleasure, propriety and tradition in our lives; all I am suggesting is that we need to make sure that they do not take over our emotional and spiritual lives – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). There is no room for God’s presence in our lives when our own agendas take over all the nooks and crannies of our souls. Even prayer can become clutter when it is not focused on our relationship with God.

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Jesus was angry because Passover became about animals and coins; Passover became about proprieties and traditions; Passover became about the politics of the day; Passover became a lot about logistics and much less about God.

So what’s in it for us? How can we live the Gospel in our lives?

Who among us does not struggle with frustrations, discontent, anxieties, resentments, harsh-judgments, self-pity, and mistrust at one time or another? Who among us does not deal with negative thoughts, self-doubts, fears and worries, old emotional wounds, rejections, regrets, “have to’s and want to’s” that clutter our souls and prevent us from being at peace? (Rupp, 34) Who among us does not want to improve their lives and surround their lives with beauty?

All these are valid and real emotions and when we allow it, they can form a wall between us and God. We can become too busy to notice God in all the clutter…

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Lent is the Season to think about the emotional clutter in our lives and to invite Jesus to overturn our tables. It is not an easy task and it can be painful. That is why most of the time we resist it. But when we allow Jesus to overturn our tables, to make us aware of the emotional clutter in our lives, when we have the courage to face our spiritual clutter we come closer to God. We learn to love God stronger, we learn to recognize God’s presence in the midst of our lives and we learn to be better followers of Jesus.

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In conclusion I want to make one last point. The events that we discussed today happened on Monday. Just four days later, on Friday morning, Jesus was facing his accusers. I could not find accusations of creating a disturbance in the Temple in the list of charges against Jesus. I think that the moneychangers and animal sellers recognized Jesus’ motives and recognized how their own good intentions for an orderly and well organized Passover took them away from God.

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What are your “good intentions?” What in your lives takes you away from God? What is God doing in your life to shape you, to mold you and to make you a better person tomorrow? How is God shaping and molding you today to make you a better person tomorrow?

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Works Cited

Rupp, Joyce. “The Cup of Our Life.” Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2012.

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